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High Alt Med Biol. 2003 Winter;4(4):479-83.

Medical considerations in the use of helicopters in mountain rescue.

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Mountain Rescue Service of Slovenia, Health Center Trzic, Krize, Slovenia.


The outcome of patient care can be dramatically improved by bringing rapid rescue and medical care to the mountain rescue scene and by rapid transport to a medical facility. The use of a helicopter for these purposes is common. It is necessary when it has clear advantages for victims in comparison with ground rescue and transport. Helicopters should work within the existing emergency medical system and must be staffed by appropriate mountain rescue and medically trained personnel. Activation time should be as short as possible. Activation of a helicopter for a mountain rescue should primarily include indication and assessment of flight and safety conditions. No other mediators or delaying factors should be permitted. The main safety criteria are appropriate mountain rescue and flight training, competence of air and ground crews, radio communication between the air and ground crews, and mission briefing before the rescue. Criteria for a helicopter used for mountain rescue are proper medical and rescue equipment, load capacity, adequate space, and others. There are two main groups of indications for use of a helicopter for mountain rescue: the patient's condition and the circumstances at the site of the accident. All persons responsible for the activation of the helicopter rescue operation should be aware of specific problems in the mountains or wilderness.

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